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Your Galaxy Nexus, Ice Cream Sandwich questions answered

faq When is Google's Ice Cream Sandwich OS update coming to your phone? How does the Samsung Galaxy Nexus compare to the competition? You asked, and we answered.

Article updated: 12/7/11 to answer more questions.

Yesterday, CNET's reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich (or "ICS"), the brand-spankin'-new operating system it's running on, burst forth. Moments later, the questions flooded in. Justifiably, there's a lot you want to know.

Here, I'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions I've received over Twitter, Google+, and e-mail, first for the Galaxy Nexus, and then for Ice Cream Sandwich (so keep scrolling!). I'll continue to update the list as more questions come in. If I didn't get to yours, feel free to add it in the comments section, and I'll answer if I can. And definitely check out the videos; slideshows; pros and cons; and in-depth details in CNET's Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich reviews. (Note: Due to high volume, I may not be able to answer every question, and I won't answer previously answered questions.)


When is the Galaxy Nexus coming to the U.S. and how much will it cost?
This is the million-dollar question, and the unsatisfying (yet truthful) answer is that we still just don't know. Verizon is a confirmed carrier but hasn't announced pricing or availability, and try as I might, I haven't been able to divine those tidbits. There are leaks, however, suggesting that the Galaxy Nexus launch is delayed on Verizon and will cost about $300.

More than a leak, the pricing makes good common sense. Top-tier 4G LTE Verizon smartphones like the HTC Rezound and the Motorola Droid Razr come in at the same $300 (without deals), so expect the Galaxy Nexus' nondiscounted retail cost to slide in around there, too.

For the record, CNET tested the unlocked GSM version using a T-Mobile SIM card supplied by Google. It performed on the carrier's "4G" HSPA+ network.

Which phone should I get, the Galaxy Nexus, the HTC Rezound, or the Motorola Droid Razr?
Hey, what's that over there?!

We've said it before, Verizon is faced with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the Android smartphone department. If you absolutely must have the latest and greatest software, the answer is easy: you want the Galaxy Nexus. If you don't mind waiting until early 2012 to get the update, then there's more room for evaluation.

The fabulous Nicole Lee created this handy chart to compare specs on the three handsets battling it out to be your phone. However, more important than specs are the intangibles that make you love or hate a phone, things like the custom interface, how good the screen looks, in-hand feel, and your reaction to the design. Then there are the extras, like the allure of the HTC Rezound's Beats by Dr. Dre in-ear buds or the handy Smart Actions or Kevlar backing on the Droid Razr. Start with the elements that are the most important to you, and work from there.

How fast are the speed and performance on the Android browser on Galaxy Nexus?
Pretty fast! Of course, speed depends on three things: the phone's internal specs; how well the software processes requests, caching, and loading; and the carrier's network speed. So far, the Galaxy Nexus' WebKit browser has been performing very well. I'll provide deeper data tests with an official launch device for Verizon.

Does the barometer really help lock onto GPS faster?
That's a good question, and one that's hard to quantify. It's something we'll likely revisit with the official Verizon review. In the meantime, check out the GPS section in CNET's official Galaxy Nexus review.

Does the Galaxy Nexus come with a Micro-SIM card slot?
Our review unit has a full-size T-Mobile SIM card.

Will the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus phone have CDMA only, or will it be a hybrid CDMA/GSM world phone?/> I'd like to say it'll be a world phone, but without any confirmation from Samsung or Verizon, I just can't say.


Why is it called Ice Cream Sandwich?
Google names versions of its operating systems alphabetically, and after sweets, starting with Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, on up to Ice Cream Sandwich (Jelly Bean is next). Get an overview of all the Android OSes here.

Which is your favorite flavor?
Of ice cream sandwiches? This is the hands-down, Editor's Choice champion.

When will my phone get Ice Cream Sandwich?
Good question. Since the carriers and manufacturers have to first test any software updates for compatibility on existing phones and on the network, updates can take time. The Samsung Nexus S should be the first to be updated, but there's no date yet. HTC has announced that seven of its handsets will receive updates in early 2012: the HTC Sensation, the HTC Sensation XL and Sensation XE, the HTC Rezound, the HTC EVO 3D, the HTC EVO Design 4G, and the HTC Amaze 4G.

When, even if, your phone will get updated has traditionally been a business decision, with more popular, higher-end phones receiving the update before slower-selling or lower-end models. Yet back in May, Google and several partners, including Samsung, HTC, and Motorola, promised to bring phones released within 18 months of a new operating system up to speed. This ICS release will be the true test of that commitment.

When can I get a custom ICS ROM for my phone?
The source code is out there now, and we've seen unofficial phones running the ROMs. In addition, CNET's Maggie Reardon has some pointers on rooting. Just keep in mind that rooting isn't for the faint of heart, and could violate your handset's warranty. There, you've been warned.

Will Ice Cream Sandwich work with my tablet?
Absolutely. It was designed with tablet-and-smartphone unity in mind. Even if your smartphone has one OS and your tablet another, your common Google services will sync, as long as you've logged in to both devices using your Google account.

Google Music is the new Ice Cream Sandwich music app. And yes, there's an equalizer.
Google Music is the new Ice Cream Sandwich music app. And yes, there's an equalizer. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Are there integrated equalizer settings in the stock music player?
Yes! some higher-end Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II have a simple equalizer on-board thanks to their manufacturers' added skins. The ICS tool looks polished and offers slider controls.

What does ICS look like/behave like on a tablet?
I haven't seen it on a tablet, but it will have the same operating system. Expect some apps to take full advantage of the tablet's larger form factor with the addition of viewing panels.

Is there integration of Google Voice into voicemail? Also, is that voicemail now "visual"?
Google showed off this feature at its launch event in Hong Kong, but no app is immediately available on the review unit we have in-house. The API is there for developers, but the Google Voice app currently in the Market isn't yet compatible, a Google representative told me.

What are the specs needed to run ICS? Will old-generation single-core phones be able to run it smoothly?
There are no additional minimum hardware requirements. Of course, if a phone featuring ICS doesn't have a front-facing camera, you won't be able to use those features.

Is it true the facial unlock can be done with a photo?
Yes. Don't believe me? I demo it in the Ice Cream Sandwich video review below.

Now playing: Watch this: Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0)

Is Face Unlock cool or a gimmick?
It's a cool gimmick that will help break the ice at parties--at least until everyone has Ice Cream Sandwich. Yes, it works, but even Google admits it isn't as secure as a PIN or unlock pattern.

Which features perform better than iOS?
Easy. Turn-by-turn voice navigation and customization.

Yes, I'm being intentionally tongue-in-cheek, but my point is that Android fans will continue to enjoy the same core features as before, with mostly visual and organizational tweaks in the new OS. And if you're already married to the iPhone, you'll likely stay that way. For those of you who are interested in more of a blow-by-blow account, check out this comparison of killer Android Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 5 features.

Have more questions?: Leave them in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them.